There is a world of potential in the wrestling room at Tamaqua High School, even though the Blue Raiders posted a 1-17 record last season.
Tamaqua's previous record is 100 percent deceiving since it had three to four automatic weight class forfeits per match; giving them a minimal shot at winning.
However, the tide seems to be turning after one offseason as the number of athletes who came out for the wrestling team skyrocketed compared to last season.
"The turnout significantly improved compared to last year," said Tamaqua head wrestling coach Jon Mashack. "This season we have 17 wrestlers on the roster. We might only have one hole in our lineup from match to match."
Mashack explained that they have four athletes who have no previous wrestling experience.
"Although we won't be forfeiting those weight classes, it's going to take them some time to develop and learn the basics to actually be able to help us be successful," he said.
The four starters with no experience are: Brad McAloose (heavyweight), David Lucas, Tyler Calkins, and Chris Daynorwicz.
Team captain Colin Mashack is the true leader of this team.
Last season, Mashack posted an undefeated 23-0 individual record as he went on to become the district champion.
Colin is also ranked third in the state according to the PIAA rankings.
Coach Mashack hopes Colin, along with his other seniors, will be able to speed up the learning curve in teaching the new wrestlers.
"We had to slow things down this offseason and take more time to teach technique and fundamentals," said the Tamaqua coach. "As the kids get their experience, it will minimize the time we have to spend teaching them the basics."
Along side of Mashack and the four new wrestlers, the other 13 roster spots are filled by Adam Toth, Chance Szabo, Dustin Silkowski, Dylan Rynkiewicz, Hunter Matalavage, James Weeks, Jasper Stocker, Joshua Ambrose-Manness, Kyle Oliphant, Malik Roper, Tanner McHugh, and Ty Hinkle.
The starting lineup is still not set in stone. Coach Mashack said there are still three or four weight classes where the starting job is up for grabs.
The fact that starting positions are still available, means that practices are much more intense than they were a few weeks ago.
The Tamaqua coach said, "The kids are starting to pick up on things and it's getting more competitive between the kids amongst themselves as we are moving forward."
This Blue Raider team has a great chance to eclipse the .500 mark this season. There is a great mix of youth, experience, and coaching.
"I think as a team we're still developing as a core," Mashack noted. "Some of the guys are just starting to understand wrestling, let alone figuring out how to win matches."
The group of wrestlers on this squad who persevered through last season feel as if they have something to prove to the rest of the league.
"I think a few of our kids have a chip on their shoulder because they've had the experience and capability last year when we were forced to forfeit all of those weight classes," Mashack said.